September 16, 2019 | 66° F

Rutgers stumbles in rematch

Photo by Nisha Datt |

Junior righthander Slater McCue allowed two runs on three hits in 4.1 innings of work, but Rutgers was unable to give run support in a 4-2 loss yesterday to Delaware. The Knights managed just five hits in the game.

Double plays are usually what Rutgers baseball head coach Fred Hill wants from his defense.

What he does not expect is two runs to cross the plate because of them.

Delaware managed to do just that in the second and fourth innings, respectively, an effort that gave the Blue Hens a 4-2 win against the Scarlet Knights (20-24, 8-7).

“We’re lucky we got away with them only getting one run [on each],” Hill said. “We made two nice plays and that kept us in the game.”

The two plays put Rutgers in a 2-0 hole in the beginning of the game, and it did not help the Knights that Delaware’s (28-16) starting righthander Dan Gatto (4-2) went all nine innings against the Knights either, allowing just five hits.

He was not overly impressive with just two strikeouts, but Rutgers was unable to get solid contact against him.

All that aside, Rutgers still seemed poised to take control after a two-run bottom of the sixth to tie the game, until Delaware capitalized on the Knights’ mistakes.

With two outs and men on first and third, Blue Hens shortstop Brock Niggebrugge attempted a steal on senior catcher Jeff Melillo. Melillo threw down to second as Niggebrugge forced the pickle play, which scored third baseman EJ Stoltzfus for a 4-2 lead.

Niggebrugge reached on a throwing error by senior first baseman Charlie Law, who made a nice play on Niggebrugge’s ground ball to his left side but threw wide to senior reliever Sam Hasty (0-1) who was covering.

“It pretty much came down to the play I didn’t make at first base,” Law said. “I threw the ball away and we should have won the game. Those are two runs [we could have saved] and we should still be playing.”

The inning proved to be Rutgers’ downfall, as it did not collect another hit for the rest of the game.

Junior righthander Slater McCue started for Rutgers and was effective, pitching four-and-one-third innings with just three hits and two earned runs.

“At the end of the day it’s a loss,” McCue said. “I think I pitched alright. Obviously I’ve had my inconsistencies at times. I was able to get out of it with some great defense from the team, but at the end of the day it’s a loss.

But while yesterday’s game could be described as a disappointment, Tuesday’s affair against Hofstra could be described as more severe.

Rutgers held a 7-1 lead after the top of the fourth, but Hofstra stormed all the way back for a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth for the 10-9 victory.

Hofstra third baseman Kevin Brantley finished his 4-for-5 day at the plate with a homerun to end the game. The long ball capped the 10-run comeback to leave a bitter taste for Hill.

Freshman starter Jon Young went four and two-thirds innings before was pulled for senior reliever Nathaniel Roe.

Young, who has pitched well in his last two midweek starts, was drilled in the leg by a line drive in the fourth, which could have affected his delivery the following inning.

Hofstra plated four runs in that inning, which began the Prides’ offensive push.

It has been a common theme for Rutgers in midweek losses to have more than enough offense, and Tuesday was no exception.

In its most productive half inning this season in the fourth, the Knights played small ball until senior designated hitter Charlie Law went to bat.

Junior centerfielder Brian O’Grady scored on a wild pitch, and two more runs crossed the plate on an infield single and a walk before Law crushed a three-run homer to complete the game.

Rutgers now shifts gears to its conference slate, as it will host six straight league games beginning tomorrow against Connecticut.

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

By Bradly Derechailo

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